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Once Was Not

Canada Country of Origin: Canada

Once Was Not

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Type: Full-Length
Release Date: October 18th, 2005
Genre: Death

Review by Yener on July 14, 2019.

I have waited for a long damn time for this album to come out and to write this review. Being one of my favorite bands of all time, it's not hard to imagine my anticipation and sheer joy of listening to a new Cryptopsy album. 

Cryptopsy really have never let me down before. Each album has been a progression and step up from the next. Both in terms of musicianship (which the band is known for) and songwriting (which the band is known for as well) I have been following the band since 1996, and though deep down I do long for those days, one must always look ahead and progress with the bands that they love. The None So Vile days were amazing, and unlike most people, I thought the Whisper Supremacy and And Then You'll Beg albums were simply too good to be true. I loved every recorded note from those albums. Yes, including Mike Di Salvo's vocals. People never gave that guy the credit he deserved, and it is by no means an easy task to replace Lord Worm, one of the best-known singers in death metal. But we will get into more of that later on. 

First, let’s start with the production. In all fairness, the production and overall mix of the album could have been a bit better. It's not that it's not clear, it just… I don't know yet. I was expecting the guitar sound to be more 'in your face' than it is on the record. It is by no means weak, but it is not too spectacular, either. However, I love the sound of the drums, as they sound raw and natural. In short, Flo's drum kit actually sounds like a fucking drum kit, and not a typewriter like almost all other death metal bands. You can hear the accents, dynamics and everything, and that's amazing, considering the drum master sitting behind the kit. 

Second, the vocals are nothing like I had expected them to be. Which is both good and bad. Lord Worm seems to have strayed from his formula a little bit. The vocals are not similar to those on None So Vile, which he is known for so well. Here, the vocals are more trebly with a healthy dose of midrange, topped with high-end screams, which the man does so well. However, I was expecting and looking forward to the deep and fast vocals that he also does like very few can. 

Anyways, with that out of the way, let’s move onto the album. The first track from the record is called "Luminum", and it is basically a sweet, yet sorrowful, classical guitar intro. Some guitar harmonics and wails near the end of the track on the electric are the first hints of the damage that is soon to follow. However, this is possibly the best album opener Cryptopsy have ever done, as it sets the mood just right. The atmosphere is really amazing, and just when you're caught in the beauty of it all, the album transcends to "In the Kingdom Where Everything Dies, The Sky Is Mortal." Starting off with simple power chords, the band then literally launch into a crazy frenzy of atonal riffing topped with Flo's insane blast beats. The band sound tight as fuck and simply amazing. Flo's double bass and cymbal work pretty much dominates the first two minutes of this song, with the riffs mainly chugging away in the background. A tasteful guitar interlude paves the way for chapter two in the song, and they explore further dynamics and beats. The song boasts a very tasteful yet strange guitar solo, then dives into some more impeccable riffing, followed by another interlude. This is the Cryptopsy we have all been waiting for. 

Next up is track three, "Carrionshine." The demo version of this track was eagerly downloaded by the hordes of Cryptopsy fans way before the release of the album. The demo version had terrible audio quality and it was a blurry sonic mess. This of course is not the case here. A classic off-beat intro kicks the song into action, followed by master Flo Mounier's intense drumming. The riffing here is awesome, and the guitar solo is short, but simply amazing and very suitable. The clean interlude will take make you smile a knowing smile, and after it is over you get kicked in the teeth with one of the best riffs Cryptopsy has ever laid to tape. Also, this will be your first-time hearing Flo use the mighty gravity blast, and the effects are quite stunning. We all knew that he would use them on the new album from interviews released a few months back, and thankfully he has used it with taste and in the right places, as opposed to using it fucking everywhere, like Kataklysm. The song is 3:22 in length, but to be honest, it does not need anymore. It's quite perfect the way it is, no need to fiddle around with it. 

Track four, "Adeste Infidelis" roars out of your speakers next, with a sharp riff that cuts your face, yet only last for a second. The band launches into another riffing frenzy with Flo's drums going insane all over the place. The double bass, the toms, the ride, the splash, the snare... it all comes at once, and it all comes at the same time! Lord Worm barks out his lyrics, then gives way to the amazing bass interlude at 1:10 into the song. Eric Langlois is one of the best, and most under-rated bassists in death metal. The man plays strictly with his fingers, slapping, pulling, popping his way through the tracks with amazing skill and technique. He is the backbone of the band along with Cryptopsy, and together with Flo, makes the band sound so tight it's not even remotely humorous. The guitar solo rips into our ears at 2:43, and it's once again short and to the point. To be honest, the soloing could be much, much better. Not that it's bad, but the soloing could just be better. These guys are capable of better guitar solos, though I imagine it to be a pain in the ass to solo over the ridiculous time signatures and Flo's 'jazzy' approach to drumming. All that said, another fine song from the boys from Montreal. 

"The Curse of the Great" starts off with an expertly selected synth, with some spoken word parts. Another thing worthy of mention is that this is a concept album, though because the album has not been officially released yet, I'm not too sure what that concept is, sadly. This album should definitely be enjoyed with the lyric sheet, as I am positive that more meaning will be granted to the songs then. This song is the standard Cryptopsy formula, however the section 1:36 into the song is nothing short of spectacular. This song has a doomier feel as opposed to death metal, with the riffs being slower and more pulsing than their usual material. By the way, the double bass played at 2:48 into the song is some of the fastest, and cleanest, you will ever hear. Not only that, but the double bass interlude (!!) at 3:17 is also worthy of mention, simply because it's so strange and awesome at the same time. Cryptopsy love to give you what you least expect to hear, and this album is filled with many surprises, twists and turns. 

Track six, "The Frantic Pace of Dying" kicks in with a superb riff, and then it's simply heads down, no nonsense riffing. The drumming on this track is truly inspiring, even if you're not a drummer. So much shit is going on that it's pretty hard to digest it all, but you eventually manage in the end. It takes time and effort to truly appreciate what the band are doing, and what they wanted the listener to understand. Not many people get it, but those who do... well, it's just priceless for us. The synth breakdown at 3:38 is awesome to put it simply, then it's back to business as usual. However, to be completely honest, this is not the most spectacular song Cryptopsy have recorded. It kind of drags on without too much purpose. It is still a fine listen but can be hard to listen to if you're not in the mood to really listen to the track. 

"Keeping the Cadaver Dogs Busy" is more like what I expected this album to be like. To be completely, dead honest, I was expecting a lot of jazz interludes and sections on this album, and sadly did not get too many of them. However, the intro of this song is just that, and it's perfect. Very relaxing and expertly played, it gives me the impression of an obscure radio signal colliding with the album. It simply should not fit, but it does. The rest of the song is outstanding, with Master Mounier dominating his drum kit, and the riffing spewed out on this track are second to none. This is a sonic inferno, but it never gets messy because the guys unleashing it know exactly what they are doing. Even if a beat sounds like it's going to fall apart, it never does, and then you smile and realize that it was all done on purpose, and the boys from Montreal are just fucking with our senses. The riff at 3:22 sounds like the riff in "We Bleed", but oh well. Same chord progression, different riff. But that's the thing with Cryptopsy. You never know what to expect and what to hear, and when you finally hear it, it makes perfect sense. The band is like suspense movie; you never know what's going to happen next and that keeps everything interesting and fresh. 

For many people, the next track, "Angelskingarden" will be the best song off of the record. I can't say which is the best and the worst, as that would not be fair, as each and every song has a certain atmosphere and brilliance to them. This song, however, really does stand out from the rest. It kicks off with a synth so perfect-so right-that anything else there simply would not be appropriate. It is haunting, melancholic, and dark. The carnage that ensues is something that you definitely must really witness and experience for yourself. The riffing is frantic; twisting and turning like electric eels, not sure where to go, running into walls, bouncing back, shocked in the sheer speed and terror of it all. Flo's drumming from 2:19 onwards is just plain ridiculous, you just can't help from smiling and nodding. You can hear the bass pulsating through your feet at all times, and the vocals of Lord Worm just get better and better, with some very fucking impressive growls and screams. The interlude at 3:23 is fucking awesome, then it's back to the day job of kicking people in the face over and over again. The section and riffing at 4:07 is one of the best things Cryptopsy have ever recorded... it's fucking breath-taking and simply awesome. Guitars roar, squeal and scratch their way into the awesome solo section, riffs complimented by the stunning drum work. A short synth, and we're off into the solo section. Now this is how a solo should be played. Impressive runs, screams, and a nice array of sweep picking, with some more synths in the back. 

"The Pestilence That Walketh In The Darkness (Psalm 91:5-8)" is track number nine. This was released on the Century Media website, right before the album leaked. A lot of people criticized it for sounding like "mall-core." Now, back in the days of None So Vile, in which many of you were still just ankle-biters listening to everything other than Cryptopsy and not even knowing of their existence, we loved the band, simply because they were mysterious and awesome. I for one, never wanted the band to become popular or to "make it big" simply because of the fact that a lot of fucking idiots would end up listening to them as well. Cryptopsy has, and always will be, a band for musicians. If you are not a musician, you are going to have a bastard of a hard time to appreciate what they are truly doing. It's always easy for some dickless piece of shit to step up to the plate and call them "mall-core" after hearing the first riff from this song. People who make such comments are the same people that just stopped listening to Slipknot quite recently, and all of a sudden declared themselves to be 'cool' by listening to more extreme bands like Cryptopsy, Origin and Nile. Old time metal heads like myself would never disrespect the band by calling a Cryptopsy riff "mall-core." Faggots are everywhere in the world, and especially in the music scene, where faggotness wanders and roams free, with mindless fucking morons running around making comments on what they don't understand. So here is a word from the wise: If you don't understand what you are listening to, then don't fucking listen to it, and keep your fucking mouth shut. Go listen to Machine Head or something, as you probably don't have a clue what Cryptopsy is all about anyway. 

Now where did all of that come from? It all spawned from comments people made about the first riff and intro to "The Pestilence That Walketh In The Darkness (Psalm 91:5-8) “. Sure, it is more laid back and experimental, but it's not fucking mall-core you retarded degenerate assholes. The song kicks in with a nice clean guitar sound, then makes its way into some chord riffing, followed by a spoken word part by Lord Worm. Also, we must not forget the fact that this is a concept album, so it's only natural for the album to have it's slow and 'moody' bits. Section 1:04 into the song is nothing but spectacular, with and awesome riff and yet even more amazing drum work. Actually, the song is a breath of fresh air, because the previous seven tracks should have torn you a new asshole. It's refreshing and interesting to listen to something else which is not of the standard formula. Or at least, I think that way. But if you want the same thing for the entire duration of a record, then go listen to a Disgorge album. 

Oh, and I really wonder what those fools would say about "The End", which is the 10th track on the album. Completely instrumental, played on traditional instruments. You guys weren't expecting it were you? Of course, you weren't. As I said before, the new generation of Cryptopsy fans which simply hopped on the bandwagon because the band has a cool logo, don't know what to expect from this band. They have no idea what they are capable of. Personally, I would have expected more of this type of thing, along with more jazz solos and interludes. After the release of None So Vile, Cryptopsy has taken their sound to a more experimental level, especially with And Then You'll Beg, which was a stunning album in terms of musicianship and experimentation. Anyways, the atmosphere created on this track is priceless, and clocking in at 2:49 in length, it is the perfect interlude for the album closer, which is titled "Endless Cemetery." 

Starting off with another classic Cryptopsy intro, the boys get down to work with a nice, heavy, and brooding guitar riffs. The bass work is astounding, and the cymbal work provided by Flo Mounier is breath-taking. Careful listeners (as you all should be if you're listening to Cryptopsy in the first place) will have noticed that the second riff in this song is the same riff as the one in "The Pestilence That Walketh In The Darkness (Psalm 91:5-8), at the 1:04 mark. This is not surprising in the least and is actually expected. Being a concept album, it is normal for the band to summon themes previously used on the album. With more careful listens, I'm sure there are plenty more that can be picked out, but this is the most obvious one. "Endless Cemetery" contains astounding riff damage, as well as incredible vocals from Lord Worm. At 3:16 the band shifts gears completely and goes into a brilliant solo section, with a memorable guitar line laid underneath it. The harmony guitars played at 4:14 is something else worth noting, as it is there to capture attention, and it does just that. After the solo section the band launches into the final section of the song and of the album, and it's pure, balls to the wall death metal. An appropriate sweep arpeggio ends the album. 

Yes, so the album has ended. A long five-year test of patience has come to an end. There will definitely be mixed feelings about this album, which is understandable. What is not understandable would be the bashing of this album. Sure, there will be listeners who are nowhere near ready enough to be listening to a Cryptopsy album. This is not your standard, constant blast beats, tremolo picked death metal album. None of the Cryptopsy albums are like that. The ambition and goals of this band are to give listeners a unique and different listening experience, with a lot of odd twists and turns. Cryptopsy have never failed to deliver the unexpected, and I don't believe they ever will. 

Prior to the release of this album, it was said that the band would take a more straightforward approach to their songwriting, simply because Lord Worm is not too efficient on super-technical death metal. Whisper Supremacy and And Then You'll Beg were both albums of technical overload, and let’s be honest here, Mike DiSalvo did a superb job on both of those albums. Worm just would not have been appropriate to sing on those albums. On this album however, he fits exceptionally well, while the band managing to remain interesting and inspiring. Worm has worked quite hard to get his phrasing close to Mike's, as well as the clarity and punch Mike had. Here he combines it with his own guttural glory, and the results are fascinating, though quite difficult to listen to at times. That being said, his screams throughout this album are fucking top-notch and they still echo through my head. 

In conclusion, this is not for everyone. If you like your death metal pretty much straightforward, check out Disavowed, Severed Savior, Disgorge, Malevolent Creation, etc. All of these bands are fantastically fucking superb in their own right, but not quite as much as Cryptopsy. This used to be a special band with special listeners and I would have liked it to stay this way until the end of time, but it's impossible for a band to have so many great musicians to get unnoticed. You can only make so many records before someone goes "Hey wait a minute… what the hell is going on here?", and that's exactly what happened with Cryptopsy. Their technical genius combined with their songwriting abilities make them impossible not to notice.

Rating: 9.8 out of 10

Review by Maciek on April 17, 2013.

This is probably the biggest challenge for me - to write a review of an album from 2005 in 2013, especially that band released two more albums after that and both very different albums. And when you enter any online forum about metal and search for posts about this album you can surely read as many opinions as many people have heard the album. So whatever I'll write here, on MetalBite website about this album, will result in as many "damn right"s as "hell no!"s.

Even fanatic Cryptopsy-holics are not united in opinions about this release. Anyway I'm joining the group of those who praise it for its variety and skills of all musicians who contributed on this album. To me it's just like listening to another release by Mike Patton - you never know what's on it, until you hear it, but there is no doubt that these guys know metal inside-out. Listening to this album was like listening to every Mr. Bungle album - maybe there are few (or rather a couple) of melody lines you can whistle while shaving but that's it. The rest is chaos. But this chaos is precisely planned and only masterminds standing behind it know what's going on.

Let's start with my favourite part - the drums. Flo Mounier is one of those drummers which you might think "can do it on the studio album, but there's no way he would survive playing that live". Well, I encourage you to attend any of their shows or look for some drum-cam videos on the internet. This guy is a random rhythm generator with a human brain and machine-like endurance. Actually I have to add that Cryptopsy know probably everything about metal, but also a fair amount about jazz and progressive rock/metal. They mix it all skillfully and probably that blend is causing so much controversy, because it's sometimes hard to understand how they came up with the idea of putting all the riffs and rhythms in this particular order. Some probably think that it's actually disorder. Or maybe they just gave each rhythm a number and then drawn these numbers from a hat. Anyway going back to skills - Flo Mounier is an excellent drummer and he played all these rhythms perfectly. Some tracks even sound as if it was a drum solo with guitars and vocals recorder over it. It actually reminds me another unusual album - Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects "Sol Niger Within". But actually Cryptopsy's album is more chaotic and furious.

Now the guitars - an intro played by Jon Levasseur is awesome if you want to play it to your non-metal friends to weaken their vigilance, just to play 'In the Kingdom...' right after it. Rapid reactions guaranteed, not necessary pleasant. The rest of the album's guitar parts are played by Alex Auburn and basically you have everything here - low riffs, high riffs, slow riffs, tremolo riffs, one-string, two-string riffs as well as chords. There are melodic solos on this album as well as Kerry King-styled solos. What might be slightly surprising that the guitar sound is quite clean on this album and again many fans consider it as a flaw and describe the sound as flat. I tend to disagree, I've heard flatter. Too bad there is no information available about who recorded keyboards on this album, as they add quite nice touch to few tracks. I'm mentioning them now, because maybe they were guitar synths (if Pestilence could do it in 1993, so could Cryptopsy in 2005).

To hear Eric Langlois, you have to listen very hard. The distorted sound of bass goes very often in line with low-tuned guitar, apart from very few moments where he's given opportunity to show off a little. And that is probably the only "but" from me on this album. Either the melody lines are not complex enough for bass on this album or the sound engineer didn't like bassists.

I left vocals to the end of my review as again there is a lot of controversy behind the vocals on this album amongst the fans and sporadic listeners. It was a long-awaited return of Lord Worm and some of them were disappointed. I'm not. The spectrum of sounds coming out of Lord Worm's mouth is also amazing. They are harsh mostly, but that adds variety to this album. You could think that sometimes he even sounds as if he was barely able to finish the song, but that stands again in contrast to the overall "clean" sound of the album. Which in my opinion is good. You've got low growls, black metal-ish shrieks, some narration. Low growls sometimes remind me of early L-G Petrov's achievements. And that's only why I like it even more.

To sum the whole album - it is chaotic, but actually in some tracks you can notice a pattern of repeated riffs as if they had a construction of verses and chorus. It is brutal - it is definitely death metal, fast, technical and most of the time very far from melodic. Maybe it's not brutal enough for some fans, but to me it's just perfection. It is my subjective opinion and I guess not everyone would put this album amongst the list of the best albums of all time, but I would. If you're not sure if you want to buy it, borrow it from a friend and give it a try. Because I think that every metalhead should listen to it at least once, from the beginning to the end. And if you find it too chaotic... well, it's metal album about war and I think it the music is as chaotic as it should be.

Categorical Rating Breakdown

Musicianship: 10
Atmosphere: 10
Production: 8
Originality: 10
Overall: 9

Rating: 9.4 out of 10